Saturday, November 14, 2009

Eyes Turn To The Original Mr. Excitement

Jimmy Spencer recently had some changes in his TV assignments for SPEED. Spencer was added to This Week in NASCAR on Monday nights during the Chase. At the same time, he was removed from Victory Lane. That is the program that interviews the winning driver, crew chief and owner right after the race.

Spencer was replaced by Larry McReynolds, who changed the tone of the show by coming in with prepared questions that related directly to the events of the race. McReynolds also uses his notes to voice the highlights and update what viewers saw as the event unfolded.

Spencer now travels to the Sprint Cup Series tracks only to continue his role on RaceDay. That two-hour show is the franchise for SPEED on Sundays since the network does not carry any of the Sprint Cup Series points races.

Originally, RaceDay was a unique program that allowed for candid interviews, good humor and opinions from both Spencer and his fellow panelist Kenny Wallace. Now, the dynamic of the program has changed. Spencer and Wallace now take the topics offered to them by host John Roberts and make speeches to the TV cameras.

Over the last several years, Spencer has defined himself as someone who shoots from the hip on TV. His emotional rants are sometimes right on the money and sometimes so far off-base it's frankly embarrassing. Roberts often finds himself trying to offer a sentence or two when Spencer is finished to get things back on an even keel.

The positive thing about Spencer is that no one else on TV with the exception of Kyle Petty offers these types of outspoken comments. That is not to say other analysts don't have strong feelings on NASCAR topics. They just choose not to share them on TV without planning their words well in advance.

Currently, Petty is seen briefly on RaceDay in a short pre-recorded segment. His only other TV appearance is on a trivia show called NASCAR Smarts. When Kyle Petty finished his summertime tour with TNT, NASCAR lost a valuable TV voice that has not been replaced by anyone in the ESPN corps of announcers.

Saturday, Brad Keselowski continued his aggressive driving in the Nationwide Series by again ruffling the feathers of Denny Hamlin. TV replays appeared to show the kind of racing that rarely takes place in NASCAR's top series these days. Keselowksi continues to be a hard-charger who is upsetting the very drivers he will be racing with next season in the Sprint Cup Series.

The TV networks and the NASCAR media made the most of Saturday's flare-up and reviewed Keselowski's recent run-ins with other drivers. ESPN went off the air after the race and does not have another NASCAR TV show until Sunday morning. The analyst on that program is Boris Said. He cannot speak to this type of issue like Spencer.

With only two RaceDay shows remaining, Spencer is going to be channeling his "Mr. Excitement" personality as he wades into the ongoing discussion about Keselowski. Hopefully, Spencer will have put some thought toward this issue before the RaceDay program begins at 12:30PM ET.

How Spencer reacts on this topic and what comments he makes may go a long way toward setting him up for another Monday night TV show. This time, both panelists Chad Knaus and Greg Biffle are occupied with Chase duties. Spencer will be facing off with Michael Waltrip alone on This Week in NASCAR.

While there is no doubt that host Steve Byrnes, Spencer and Waltrip have known each other for a very long time, that certainly does not change how outspoken Spencer has been on this program. It has been a rocky road with Spencer challenging Knaus and Waltrip on several emotional issues, only to be quietly moved along by Byrnes.

Ultimately, the question is which TV program fits what Spencer brings to the table and uses his personal NASCAR experience most effectively? That may be what SPEED and NASCAR Media Group executives will be discussing during the off-season.

Where do you come down on this issue? Does Spencer's outspoken style work on TV or is the era that Spencer represents long gone? Since we have watched RaceDay for nine months, what have been the parts that you have enjoyed and what might need to be addressed over the winter months?

To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Comments may be moderated in this forum. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Live Blogging The Nationwide Series Race From PIR (ESPN2 - 4PM)

Phoenix plays host to the Nationwide Series this afternoon. Allen Bestwick will begin the day with the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show at 4PM ET. He will be joined by Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. Tim Brewer will be in the Tech Garage.

At 4:30PM the race coverage will begin anchored by Marty Reid. He will be joined by Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree in the broadcast booth. On pit road will be Shannon Spake, Jamie Little, Dave Burns and Vince Welch.

PIR is a unique track. There is a dogleg on the backstretch, a bridge over the tack and a big mountain called Rattlesnake Hill behind Turns 3 and 4. The low angle shots are tremendous here to show the speed of the cars and the drift through the corners.

This track is spectacular from the air and also on wideshots for natural scenery. The entrance to pit road is dangerous and the race off pit road is going to be critical after a caution flag.

In the past, accidents happened so quickly that it was tough for TV to be in the right place at the right time. What helped to keep the coverage in perspective for TV viewers was medium wideshots showing groups of cars racing. The track is too small and quick for many tight shots.

This is the next to last race for this TV combo. Keep a sharp eye on Marty Reid today as he may well be auditioning for a larger role in the NASCAR on ESPN coverage for next season.

This post will serve to host your comments on the Nationwide coverage from PIR. To add your TV-related comments, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by today.

Take A Good Look At Marty Reid

Saturday's Nationwide Series race gets underway at 4:30PM ET. Turn up the TV a bit to hear the play-by-play call offered by ESPN's Marty Reid. His voice may just be something you'll hear a lot more of in the future.

Reid has already worked on both the IRL and NHRA packages for ESPN. He also founded CORR, an organization that sanctioned off-road racing. Needless to say, Reid has been around all kinds of motorsports where TV coverage is concerned.

This season, Reid was eased into the NASCAR on ESPN line-up to take over the Nationwide Series races in late July. The weekend of the NASCAR race from the Brickyard marked the beginning of ESPN's Sprint Cup Series coverage.

Reid coming on board allowed Jerry Punch an opportunity to focus his efforts on the Sprint Cup Series races. Earlier in the year, ESPN produced two Nationwide telecasts without either Punch or Reid. It was an experiment to allow a group of four analysts to talk casually with the fans. On both occasions, it failed miserably.

This season, ESPN has discovered that Allen Bestwick is money in the bank when he hosts the pre-race show from the Infield Pit Center. Bestwick remains live during the race, handling everything from in-race recaps to rain delays and red flag periods. In addition, Bestwick has established himself as a strong presence hosting the Monday night one-hour edition of NASCAR Now.

Although previously used in a play-by-play role by other TV networks, ESPN made a decision to keep Bestwick in his current position and bring Reid into the NASCAR world. Those decisions are not made lightly.

ESPN has a problem and they must fix it. In 2007, the network took a man who had spent many of the previous years on various college football sidelines as a reporter and put him in the high-profile position of a NASCAR play-by-play announcer.

The television package Punch took over was massive. The entire Nationwide Series season and seventeen Sprint Cup Series races. Many of those weekends included practice and qualifying sessions for one or both series. In addition, ESPN used his talents for programs from SportsCenter to NASCAR Now on a regular basis. It was clear to many at the end of 2007 that this was just too much for one person to handle.

Instead of bringing in additional help for that position, a change was made in the Lead Analyst role as Dale Jarrett joined the team. Rusty Wallace moved to the infield with Bestwick. As is usually the case, avoiding the obvious problem did not subsequently make it better.

Reid has brought a different level of excitement and enthusiasm to the Nationwide Series telecasts. He calls out the start-and-park cars, speaks freely with his analysts and enjoys the irreverent Randy LaJoie in the TV booth much more than the politically correct Dale Jarrett.

At times, Reid has expressed his displeasure with the ESPN Producer right on the air by talking about where the racing is and the camera is not. TV viewers have seen Mike Joy do the same on Fox. The fundamental belief is that the TV viewers deserve to see exactly what the fans at the track are watching. That is usually the best racing on the track, regardless of the position.

When Reid and Bestwick are teamed up on a Nationwide Series race ESPN serves up a very different final product. Despite the continual efforts by the Producer and Director to stick to a pre-scripted storyline, both announcers regularly change that focus by pointing out something going on in the race. The TV cameras must then follow.

The final weekend in Homestead is always overblown, overhyped and full of all kinds of distractions that affect the final TV product. The telecast focus swings from the leader of the race to the leader of the Chase and the only other thing viewers see a lot of is commercials. There are so many ESPN management cooks in the Homestead soup it winds up never tasting very good.

Instead, it will be this Nationwide Series race in Phoenix that may give NASCAR fans a sneak peek at what they may be hearing a lot more of in 2010 as Reid calls the event with Jarrett and Andy Petree. Bestwick will be in the infield with Wallace and Brad Daugherty.

While not all those personalities may be in exactly the same place for next season, it certainly is likely that with only a handful of IRL events on the 2010 ESPN calendar, Reid will be taking a much greater role in the live NASCAR telecasts.

TDP will be live blogging the Nationwide Series race, so please feel free to join us on Saturday afternoon as we watch this event together.

In the meantime, perhaps you could share with us your opinion of Reid this season on the Nationwide races since July. To add your TV-related thoughts, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.